Visibility as a career booster for women in consulting

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5 tips for successful positioning

Visibility as a career booster for women in consulting

October 11, 2021

“Visibility as a career booster for women in consulting.”

(Guest article in the industry magazine junior//consultant)

If you ask me what I do, I answer: Reputation bodyguard!
I build people as a strong brand and protect them and their reputation. I have been doing this with passion for more than two decades, especially in Professional Services. At the latest when a partner at Andersen Consulting – now Accenture – simplified a highly complex problem for me on a napkin in the cafeteria, the industry became my home.

Until now, it was primarily men who wanted me by their side for interviews, the WEF or for their personal branding on LinkedIn. Men because the Country Managers or Practice Leads were/are mostly men.

Women at the top were not the rule, but the exception. This is increasingly changing.

Gender parity: This does not yet exist in the consulting world

According to the BDU, women make up 43% of junior consultants, but only 19% of management positions. The WGMB even assumes only 15% women at the top level for the top consultancies.

Neither McKinsey, BCG nor Bain has yet had a woman as global CEO. Accenture, on the other hand, has two women at the helm: Julie Sweet as global CEO and Christina Raab as the new head of DACH.

Why is the career path of women in consulting not a foregone conclusion?

As a woman with ambitions, it keeps me doubly busy:
Why are there so few women at the top?

For more than a decade, that was one of my main questions on Booz’s EMEA Appraisal Committee, now Strategy&. Of course, a 70-hour work week complicates the work-life balance. Nevertheless, it is multifactorial. When we asked Mercer to look at 3,000 appraisals for reasons, the results included: entrenched role patterns, self-doubt to the point of impostor syndrome, or inferior networking.

When I give female empowerment workshops in consulting today, I also experience aspects such as:

  • Perfectionism
  • Concern about being reduced to appearance
  • The women don’t ask” phenomenon; i.e., reluctance to believe that project work speaks for itself.

Four trends that may work in favor of women in professional services

  1. The massive consultant gap: Added together, the top ten consultants and auditors want to fill 27,000 positions. However, according to Trendence, the big players in the industry have lost ground. But if you don’t want to jeopardize your growth, you can’t close yourself off to the largest talent pool in the world – women.
  2. More and more clients are insisting on mixed teams; that is, consultants can’t win important pitches without strong women, nor can they lead long-running projects without them.
    According to Source Global, gender-balanced teams are critical to hiring consultants for 72% of C-level clients.
  3. The pandemic has undermined the 5/4/3 working time model. The success of #remotework makes hybrid forms of work the #nextnormal.
  4. The climate crisis is also arriving at Professional Services. “ Up to 60% less: consulting firms do without many business trips after Corona “headlines the Handelsblatt. According to this, McKinsey and BCG, for example, want to reduce their business travel by up to 30% by 2025. Roland Berger by as much as 40% by 2028.

Taken together, this all plays into the hands of women. So your chances should improve!

If you want to get to the top, visibility is indispensable

“He who does not speak is not heard!” – said former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. So being heard and career correlate. Here, their own visibility is an important lever that women have in their own hands.

This visibility has nothing to do with vanity: it helps in internal and external positioning. And at New Business! Why? 41% of Visible Experts are seeing increases in sales and new business.

In my engagements, I meet consultants who are skeptical about becoming a ‘Visible Expert,’ meaning an expert with high name recognition and a compelling reputation for specific expertise.

But: Hinge Marketing proves measurable returns for individual visibility. After that, 46% say their own ‘showing face’ paid into their personal brand. 38%, it increased their credibility and strengthened reputation.

5 tips for effective visibility for a successful career in professional services

1. “Re-parking in the head” as the first important step

Belén Garijo, the first female CEO in the DAX30, demands“Every now and then you have to raise your hand and take responsibility.” Women should be open about their ambitions. Young women in particular ‘would often make themselves far too small.’

This is also an invitation to consultants to ‘raise their own hand’ – on appraisal, on the important project, or on mentor selection.

Nor does this mean #ChoosetoChallenge.

Because according to a Kearney study, women continue to have two barriers in their minds:

  1. 66% of women believe that successful women show less of their feminine characteristics.
  2. 85% adjust their behavior on the job to appear less feminine.

When I look at successful women – and my own history – I say:
Dare (more) femininity. Shake off your possible impostor syndrome. Value authenticity as a source of strength.

2. become the distinctive brand

Professional Services is increasingly becoming a commodity. Ultimately, this also applies to consultants. There is only one thing that helps: Become a brand early on! Be the unmistakable face that important stakeholders perceive both in-house and externally.

Important here: look for the right topics and know about the ‘unconcious bias’.
Laut “ Of star founders and quota women “, stereotypically female – ‘soft’ – topics still dominate German leading media: 6x as often as men, female managers are addressed as private individuals. In every 4th interview the gender of the interlocutor is discussed. For men, it is only one in 100. Female journalists are particularly critical of leadership traits with male connotations, such as tactical or self-confident.

To the counselors I supervise, my advice is: be aware of the bias. Don’t get involved (or only in a well-dosed way) with stereotypical ‘women’s issues’. Determine your own narrative. Put simply: It is not the interview on ‘Women in Consulting’ that makes you a brand. A clear opinion on future issues does. Lighthouse examples include Verena Pausder – digitization and education – or Marie-Christine Ostermann – entrepreneurship. For the industry, for example, it is Angelika Huber-Straßer, Managing Partner and Regional Director South of KPMG in Germany with the exciting mix of topics from CEO agenda, automotive, sustainability and female leadership.

Topic Presence Top Manager German Media
Visibility gap: Only 16 articles on the future topic of digitalization by top female managers!

3. maintain your personal branding on LinkedIn

People follow people. Therefore, the path to the top also leads via a Social Me on LinkedIn. Matthias Tauber (BCG) does. Martin Eisenhut (Kearney) does. Why not you? In this way, you position yourself not as an abstract brand, but as a person and ‘consultant of choice’.

Not having a presence on LinkedIn is also a statement. Even if it’s just to the purchasing department or the company where you’re managing a major project.

So take your personal branding into your own hands. Perhaps with the help of modern storytelling. To get started, it’s enough, invest 20 minutes a day in your LinkedIn positioning . Targeted tagging of other women in order to share and increase the reach is communication solidarity in action.

4. use PR and thought leadership for targeted self-marketing

Traditional communication channels such as PR must also be used.
Regardless of whether it’s a DAX company or a professional services player, they all have to address issues and produce studies and press statements on the subject. Here, it is only opportune for women to seek visibility.

According to Unicepta, top female managers in Germany still receive only a quarter of all media coverage. Men, on the other hand, three quarters. At the same time, women are present with a different set of topics. Key issues for the future – such as digitization – are lagging behind. Here exist exactly 16 out of a total of 2,222 articles. That’s only good enough for 27th place.

Smart female consultants occupy topics relevant to the future. Also go to panels. Organizers can no longer afford ‘manels’ – events with only male speakers.

5. network. And: Get coached

For female consultants who gulp at this visibility agenda, my advice is to do as your male colleagues do. Get competent support for what you can’t do perfectly (yet). Men in particular are excellent at networking and using external experts. Women can use this even more intensively.

As well as last but not least:
Remember the #strongertogether momentum! Every successful, visible consultant is a role model who shares her experiences with others. In this way, they not only pull other female talent up with them, but act as mentors and beacons.


Author: Susanne Mathony

Susanne Mathony
Susanne Mathony

The positioning of brands and people are my passion. For more than two decades, I have lived out my calling with CEO positioning, strategic marketing and communications consulting, PR and business storytelling.
Added in 2014 was the Social Media Consulting. Here, the focus is on #SocialCEO and personal branding and positioning of boards and teams on LinkedIn.My home is Professional Services. At GSA and EMEA level, I worked for AlixPartners, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), Strategy& as well as Russell Reynolds Associates, among others.
As a political scientist and trained journalist, I started my career at a Washington, D.C., think tank.


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